The systematic destruction of the Aztecs and minor tribes after left Central America open for the Spanish. The islands of the Caribbean gave little to no resistance to the Spanish Conquistadors. The Spanish found their foothold in the Americas. Once Spain realized the cash cow they were sitting on they quickly pushed for military reinforcements. They also moved for colonization of their new lands and also they pushed for the conversion of the natives to Christianity. The 16th and 17th century was very profitable for the Spanish and they moved from the bottom of the European power pyramid toward the top.
The first phase of the Spanish trade empire was gold and silver. The vast amounts of gold from the Americas made the Europeans crazy and driven for more. Once the Spanish purged the first wave of gold from the America, they realized there was more silver harvest than the gold. However, their lust for gold was always in the background and this pushed the Spanish to drive for the more and more gold. They quickly realized that the gold and silver strikes were not as consistent as they were at the beginning of the 16th century. They soon engaged in a new profitable trade; sugar. The major sugar products are common sugar, molasses, and rum. The combination of the African slave trade and the discovery of sugar made the Spanish grip in the Americas more destructive.
The Spanish killed many Indian tribes in the Caribbean and also in Central America. This was deliberate and also accidental. The Spanish were cruel and vicious to the natives. They did not care how hard they pushed them to work, nor were they concerned with the conditions they made them live in. Accidentally, the Spanish did not realize that they brought the death of many more natives through their own immune system. Thousands of years with domesticated animals created many common diseases, but also immunity towards them too. The largest killer of the Americas was small pox. The extinction of the Indians brought the Africans over to the Americas. For many decades before the discovery of America of Columbus in 1492, the Spanish and Portuguese were deeply involved with trade with the Africans. Slavery was an institution found in Africa way before the Europeans exploited this institution. Early on Africans would trade prisoners of war from rival tribes with Europeans. Once the Europeans s realized how profitable this partnership was, they pushed the Africans out of the way and took over the entire market. The Africans replaced the Indian workforce in the Americas. The movement of Africans to the Americas continued for 300 years. Only 7% of the slave trade made it to the shores of the United States. The largest importer of slaves was Brazil.
Spain created 2 viceroyalties in the Americas, the viceroyalty of Mexico and the viceroyalty of Peru in 1700. The increase of population and dependence of the New World for Spain created two new viceroyalties by 1780; New Granada and Rio De La Plata. These viceroyalties were appointed by the king and the viceroys only answered to one person, the King of Spain. This means that the viceroy held unlimited power as long as the shipments of gold, silver, and sugar kept moving across the Atlantic. The viceroys were assisted by a council of men called audiencias.
This was the way things were done in the Americas between 1600-1800. A whole new society and social ladder was created in the Americas. At the top were the Peninsular. These were people born in Europe. They held the highest standing and were the highest social class of the Americas. The second class was the Creoles. Creoles were European descendents born in the Americas. They had a comfortable life, but they resented the second class status. The next social class was shared by two groups, the Mestizos and Mulattoes. Mestizos were Native Americans with European descent, and Mulattoes were Africans with European descent. Their life was horrible and for the most part hopeless, but they were still considered better than pure Native Americans and African slaves. This institution remained intact for many, many years.
An institution like Feudalism developed in the New World. These tracts of land were called Encomiedas. Spanish conquistadors demanded land and power for their sacrifice and service to the crown. Native and slaves were forced to work the land along with Mestizos and Mulattoes. These tracts of land were passed on by generation and after 200 years; these lower classes were frustrated and desired change.
The early 19th century was a very turbulent time in Central America. The following countries pursued and/or earned their Independence.
Haiti 1804 Mexico 1821 Guatemala 1838 El Salvador 1838
Nicaragua 1838 Costa Rica 1838 Dominican Republic 1844
There were many reasons why Central America as well as South America desired and won their independence in the 19th century
Revolution: The American and French Revolution inspired and drove many soldiers to fight in the Americans for their own independence away from Spain
Economics: The Spanish spent all their money they made in the Americans as well as spent money they didn't have assuming that their gold, silver, and sugar would sustain their spending urge
Decline: Europe (Britain and France) were on the rise and Spain was on the rapid decline. Spain was not the only overseas power. France and England were much more disciplined with their overseas Empires in the Americas, Africa, and Asia.
France: Napoleon invaded Spain in 1808. The Spanish king is removed and for the most part the Spanish age of power is officially done. In true Napoleon style, Napoleon placed a relative on the throne of a conquered country. Joseph was placed on the throne and the direction of the island of Haiti stayed closer to French influence.
Formerly known as the island Hispaniola. Sugar plantations held over 1/2 million Africans. These slaves were overworked and underfed. The revolt in Haiti started in 1791 and ended in 1798. The people of Haiti were inspired by both the American Revolution and the French Revolution. In 1802 Napoleon sent an army to deal with the problem in Haiti. A truce was signed, but the leader of the revolt; Toussaint L'Overature was captured and sent to France where he died a year later. However in 1803 the occupying French army was given a taste of their own medicine when a Yellow Fever epidemic hit the island decimated the French as well as the natives. They surrendered to the natives.
Originally, this slave turned leader and revolutionary was named Breda. Like most slaves, Toussaint did not have a last name except for the name of the plantation in which he was property of. He changed his name to L'Overature which means "The Opening" in French. Toussaint was a small man, he was weak, and ill much of the time. He did have an excellent mind and was responsible. He was not treated as a field slave and was taught how to read and write. He spoke Creole, which was a combination of both French and African languages. L'Overature's military success was because of the combination of loyal men able to stay true to the task. He was a disciplinarian. Rebels were treated harshly for committing crimes against the enemy or the civilian population.
After the revolution, Toussaint was considered the hero and leader of Haiti. The constitution developed made L'Overature the "Governor for Life." He ruled like a dictator. Slavery was now illegal on the island; however Toussaint enforced very strict labor obligations. Toussaint's belief was that for Haiti to be successful they must continue producing at the same levels as they did prior to the revolution to be respected and left alone by countries in Europe. Not everybody saw it the same way.
At first the rebellion in Mexico looks like it was a sporadic impulsive creation of events in the region. However, the circumstances surrounding Mexico's break from Spain were deep rooted. The exploitation of the natives in Central America had been an institution for over 200 years. Mestizos' and Mulattoes were forced into institutional slavery on the Encomiedas. Creoles did not like the ability to become very wealthy and power compared to the Peninsulares. The news of the revolt in Haiti scared the Creoles and also the Peninsulares in Mexico. Mexico at this time is not only the modern country of Mexico, but all of Central America like the countries of El Salvador, Honduras, Belize, Guatemala, and Nicaragua.
The events north of Mexico in the United States also inspired the people of Mexico too. Mexico was a lot like the situation in pre-Revolution France. There was an exploited lower class. This class had no voice or chance to improve their lot. Taxes and financial responsibilities were placed on the shoulders of the lower class. Lastly, a shortage of food to almost famine levels pushed the people to react.
Father Miguel Hidalgo was the spark to the Mexican Revolution. He was a Creole priest with an interesting record. He was a pure revolutionary. He associated with intellectuals that read the Enlightenment thinkers; he discussed the situation of Mexico with the upper class. He also compared the situation in Mexico to the Revolutions in France and the United States. He was willing to do whatever it took to free the lower classes from the oppressive system that surrounded Mexico. His actions pushed him to a parish out of the way in Dolores, Mexico. Rumors swirl why he was transferred. Some say he had too many 'relationships' with some of his parishioners. There was also an accusation of mismanaging money of his previous parish. Father Hidalgo was always outspoken out revolution and the social unrest of Mexico. On Sept. 10, 1810 Father Hidalgo issued his famous speech called, "El Grito de Dolores." This speech told the people that they were destined to be successful because they were in the right and the Mother of Guadeloupe was behind them. The Creoles at first were with him but then the pushed away. There was a fear that they could control the Native Americans if they were armed. They were right, the Indians were very difficult to control, all 80,000 of them. In a moment of hesitation, Father Hidalgo gave the upper class the opportunity to organize and bring in the military. Father Hidalgo was captured, tortured, and placed in front of a firing squad. After his execution his head was cut off and placed in the town square to show the people the power and might of the government.
Once Father Hidalgo was captured and executed, one of his supporters took the reins, Father Morelos. He was a Mestizo, and pushed for social and political reform. He wanted to help all parts of Mexico and also end slavery. He was captured and shot in 1815. But they both were inspirations. In 1820, the king of Spain was forced to sign a constitution. In Mexico, Agustin de Iturbide a Creole brought all the social groups together and overthrew the viceroy to gain independence. Agustin de Iturbide tried to become the Emperor of Mexico and was turned down by the people and they created the Republic of Mexico. Iturbide tried to bring the rest of Central America under Mexican control, but these countries created the United Provinces of Central America. This lasted until 1838 when the areas of the United Provinces created their own countries. Hence, this is the reason why the above mentioned countries have the same year of independence.